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Looking at the funny side

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These days the saying that no news is good news really hits home to us more than ever, for every time you open your newspapers or even look at television you are struck by everything that is bad, sordid, frightening, ugly and, sometimes, unbelievable. We just had a week of horror stories from Mumbai. In fact, the news from Iraq, the Middle East and the latest hijackings on the high seas continue to make headlines, even though the analysts claim that Iraq is a far different country from two years ago.{{more}} But, despite all of this positive spin, dead bodies still go home to meet relatives and friends. It’s a question of being relative, you might say. Our situation is certainly not in that league, but we have had our fair share of horror stories. Rapes or attempted rapes are still a large part of our conversation, and the police every so often hope that the person they have in custody is the ‘Raper Man” that they have been looking for. The question remains, is there a ‘Raper Man” or should we not be looking for “Raper Men?” Problems continue to engulf us and nowhere is exempt, not even schools. In fact, the news from the schools is frightening when we reflect on the fact that these are the institutions that are training our young men and women to be the leaders and the ‘citizens’ of tomorrow. I am certainly not blaming the schools, for the schools simply reflect the society in every way possible.

Searchlight’s editorial carried a column with a caption, “What’s going on in our schools?” The first paragraph sets it out clearly: “Over the past few weeks we have published a number of disturbing stories involving undesirable activities among teachers and students in some of the nation’s schools. Among others, we have reported on a staffroom brawl; a near fatal stabbing; a mass suspension; the discovery of a concealed weapon; and the possession of illegal drugs. Clearly, there is something brewing in some of our schools that needs urgent attention.” Some of us hit out at the media and suggest that they are always highlighting the bad and the ugly. Well, let us not blame the messenger. The fact is that these things are not fabricated. They exist. They are happening. So the news is bad, not only in our schools but also in the wider society.

Those Gun-Mouth Pants

It is serious business, but every so often to maintain your sanity you try to focus on what is often very humorous. There was a story some weeks ago in the newspapers with allegations about police cutting the pants of students “in an apparent attempt to clamp down on the ‘gun mouth’ style of pants which has been gaining popularity, that is, tight fitting pants with a very narrow mouth.” Hawkins Nanton’s article carried a caption which relegated the matter to sheer humour- “Schoolboy pants cut by ‘fashion police’. Well, I was at a funeral recently and saw an elderly man who was sitting in front of me wearing a gun mouth pants. I laughed in church, and at a funeral at that. The gentleman, a respectable looking man, probably has boy children. Would he dare to tell them not to wear those pants to school? I probably don’t know the whole story and would, therefore, withhold judgement.

Tombstone and Joe the Burglar

Last week’s newspapers did it for me with two stories, one about ‘Tombstone’ and the other about a burglar who broke his legs. I quite often feel guilty because while I see the humour in some of these, there are victims, and one has to be concerned about the victims and the stress and harm done to them. The news item about the burglar with the broken leg reminds me of an incident in London, Canada. Thieves using a car as their get a way vehicle broke into a business place, took off with some money and sped onto a dead end street with the police behind them. They simply came out and waited for the police who were in hot pursuit. I found this extremely funny. I said to myself then that I thought any criminal attempting to involve himself in such activity must first of all think about his getaway and one expects him or them to at least be familiar with the terrain. But, one never knows.

So our friend Joe the Burglar, as John McCain might have called him, saw the police coming to the building that he had broken into and was stealing from, had no alternative but to jump from the third floor, breaking his leg in the process and simply lying and awaiting capture by the police. But Joe treated the building like his own. Among the things he had taken out or was about to take out were two refrigerators, a double bed mattress, and glass table with chairs. Imagine that! He appears to be in the wholesale business. That is what you call a bold face thief, functioning as though he owned the home.

Then there was ‘Tombstone’. He posed as an Anglican priest to deceive an elderly man on the Leeward side of the island into giving him a sow pig valued at $900. We are told that he has a case ‘coming up’ where he posed as an engineer employed at the Argyle International airport and allegedly obtained thousands of dollars from a homeowner living abroad. After reading the first part of that story I began to wonder about the name ‘Tombstone’ and my imagination soared to higher heights. But then I saw the rest of the news item. He got the name ‘Tombstone’ because he posed as a tombstone builder to deceive and con the elderly mother of a ‘deceased politician’.

Clearly Tombstone has more talent as an actor than as a thief. If only he could have used his talent in a more positive way. I was going to say in a positive and creative way, but had to admit that there might have been a lot of creativity in what he had been doing. Perhaps Joe the Burglar also has some talent as a businessman because he was dealing in large, heavy duty items and must have had some means of passing them off. I hope these characters did not learn their talent in school.

By the way, on one of my early morning walks, I passed a gentleman attacking a garbage can. When he saw me he began to mutter something to the effect that I taught him at the Grammar School and was saying something which sounded as though he was blaming me for his present predicament. I really did not wait to hear the rest of the story.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.